In a recent webinar, someone pointed out how we help people change in business, but our children have a ton of change each year as they start school and they do fine. She asked, why do we seem to coddle adults more than kids?
I’m in a unique situation as a parent this year. Both of my kids started new schools a few weeks ago – my son moved up to high school (9th grade) and my daughter moved up to middle school (6th grade). So I have first-hand visibility of how these institutions handle big changes. And kids are certainly not expected to muddle through it on their own.
Here are some of the activities schools do to help their new students transition smoothly:
Before the previous school year ends, the 5th and 8th graders take a field trip to tour their new school, see some classrooms, and meet some teachers and administrators. The field trip serves to quell some uncertainty and generate some excitement about the new school.
The week before schools starts, students attend an orientation/open house. They learn their schedules, get a map of the school, and meet their teachers. They’re given time to walk through their schedules and to open their lockers as many times as they want so it’ll be easy on the first day.
On the first day of school, students are not immediately thrown into their regular schedules. They start in small groups meeting student mentors – upperclassmen who have been trained to help them transition to the new school. They learn about rules and expectations. They walk through their schedule with extra time to find their classes. There’s not much classroom learning – the work of school – as they get acclimated to their new environment.
As students continue to find their way, tardies are forgiven for the first week. At the high school, for the entire first semester, time is set aside several times per week for new students to meet with their older mentors. The mentors not only help them with academics – study tips, time management, organization, college/career planning, etc. – but also with social issues that come with being a teenager.
Overall, schools seem to be experts at managing change for their students each year. The learning, homework, and quizzes ramp up pretty quickly in those first two weeks, and then it’s like they never left for summer vacation. Perhaps we can learn a few things from the back-to-school process!
Does that mean we really are treating adults as children when we help them navigate change? On the contrary, it means we have empathy for their situation, which doesn’t have to end when people grow up. Just like at school, there are performance expectations at work that need to be met. With change management, we can create the conditions to help people succeed at any age.
What activities and traditions helped your kids reacclimate to school? Please share in the comments.